Someone once told me that there are two types of writers. Pantsers and Planners.

According to the stereotype, planners have a meticulous understanding about where their story is going to go, they’ve thought out plot points, character arcs, the works.

Pantsers have a vague idea and react to the where the story and the characters takes them.

Today on the blog, you are going to hear from people that might loosely fit into either camp.


Chris Pahlow

Last year was my first NaNoWriMo and I used the month to write a screenplay that I’m hoping to make as my second feature film. Even though I wasn’t writing a novel (which I guess makes me a little bit of a cheat), I still found the process to be incredibly useful, and I’m aiming to finish off the second draft of the same script this November. The combination of the insane deadline and the encouragement of working alongside a few friends is an amazing motivator. My natural approach to writing is pretty meticulous and involves a lot of planning. This has a lot of benefits, but it can also be a bit stifling, and it can often make projects drag on for longer than they should. With NaNoWriMo, there’s no time to overthink things, you often just have to go with your gut instinct, which can be really liberating. I remember last year I spent the first couple of weeks focusing on outlines and beat sheets, and ended up panicking that there was no way I could finish the script by the end of the month. But somehow I got it done, and a lot of great ideas came out of that blind panic. This year, I don’t really have any set plans or writing routine, I’m just looking forward to getting stuck in and being able to immerse myself in writing again.

Chris is currently in post-production for his first feature film. It’s about a 26-year old musician piecing his life back together as a teacher. The movie is called Play it Safe


This is my sixth year doing Nano, and the first year I’m officially “cheating” – I’m working on a third draft of the novel I wrote during last year’s Nano. Last year I clocked 80,000 words in November; this year I’m aiming to write the final 35,000 words of the new draft and then revise the whole thing. (I tend to have a plan for revisions, too, so I’m not flying blind and moving commas around.) To keep myself accountable, I’ve let my critique partners know that I’m going to be getting them a polished(ish) draft at the start of December. It’s lovely to know that people you trust are waiting to read your work (and a little nervewracking!)

I always get excited about November! I’m actually a little disappointed to not be writing a new first draft this year – I have a couple of projects waiting in the wings that I’m itching to get started on – but I know that I need to finish this project first and then let myself move onto the New Shiny Ideas, otherwise I’ll never finish anything. I have a core group of friends who are also doing NaNo and one of my favourite things about November is the get togethers we have to eat, drink and write write write! We often catch up throughout the year as well, but November is a special crazy time and I love the energy it brings.

Because I write year-round, I’m not so worried about work-life balance – I tend to shoehorn in the time that I need to reach whatever the day or week’s writing goal is, whether it’s a word count or a number of hours or simply getting to a particular point in the story – so I will be doing that, but (mostly) with revisions. I’m also going on a retreat at the start of November over Cup Weekend with some other writer friends, and I’m hoping to get a LOT done then, to make the rest of the month that bit easier.

Ben Reynolds

This will be my seventh (hopefully successful) year of NaNo and I’d like the end result to be more than a series of vignettes involving wombats and their ilk. There’s no guarantee that won’t happen, but I have aspirations, dammit! Plan-wise, I have a lengthy series of dot-points about people from the oververse coming into our world to steal our dreams for their eternal wars. I usually have an aim of 2,000 words a day broken up into easily consumable 500 word bites. With a few decent weekend efforts I should hit about 70,000 words. Going on trend, this is about 2/3 of my novel. It would be great to finish, but I work full-time and become a hermit from my social life as it is. Maybe I should take November off work…

His website is

Harry Saddler

Basically I’m very suspicious of NaNoWriMo. I’m worried that it plays into what I think is a particularly pernicious myth in writing today: the myth of inspiration. In my younger writing days I wasted too much time and way too many words completely in thrall to the idea of writing as a kind of “divine creation”, something that came down like a bolt from the blue – the idea of the writer as some kind of possessed artistic genius. We created this myth and in order to perpetuate it somewhere along the line editing became the enemy. How did that happen? In 2007 the unedited scroll of On the Road was published – and not just published, but lauded as if it was the one true version of that novel. As if editing and redrafting the book had somehow corrupted it. I believe very strongly that the real creativity in writing is not getting the words down – for me a first draft is pretty much brainfart – but in reshaping them, and cutting them, and rewriting them, and putting them in the right order. Changing tenses. Deleting passages. Moving paragraphs around, seperating out narratives to see if they make sense and then weaving them back together again. It’s a long process. It’s tedious. It’s repetitve. And it’s exhilirating. Writing a first draft is great but it’s the second and the third and the fourth drafts that’ll really test your writing muscles. And it seems to me that NaNoWriMo is all about that first easy step, getting the words on paper or on the screen. There doesn’t seem to be room in the NaNoWriMo remit for all the other stuff. All the stuff that’s done in December – if it’s done at all.

He blogs at


Are you doing NaNoWriMo? Join us in the forum for more discussions and support.

Come back to the blog later today for Part 2 – The Pantsers.

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